SAN FRANCISCO—San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone thanked Mayor London Breed for loosening restrictions on church worship. New guidelines were released on September 30, allowing churches to operate indoors at 25 percent capacity up to 100 people. He considered the current restrictions “still unjust,” and indicated the petition campaign, which he attributes to the loosening restrictions, is not over. 

Before September 30, the city of San Francisco only allowed one person at a time to enter a church for prayer, and this prompted the San Francisco Archdiocese to respond.

In an announcement from September 29, Cordileone thanked the thousands of Catholics who joined the procession on September 22 at City Hall and the Cathedral of St. Mary the Assumption. He thanked the 35,000 who signed the petition with the goal of calling on San Francisco City Hall to ease “unfair restrictions” on church worship. Cordileone highlighted those who wrote letters to the editor and op-eds, and anyone else who sought to address the issue of “unequal” government restrictions on church activity, including the Department of Justice Civil Rights Department Assistant Attorney General who wrote a letter to the San Francisco Mayor about the matter. 

At 6 p.m. on October 3, the Archdiocese held an outdoor candlelit rosary rally at the Cathedral of St. Mary the Assumption plaza. The purpose of the outdoor prayer, according to an announcement, was not to urge for fair treatment, but to conduct a united prayer of Thanksgiving for the reopening of churches. 

The description of the event said:

All are welcome to come and plead for the intercession of the Virgin Mary and of St. Francis, for a reopening of churches in the city, and for an end to the pandemic. Social distancing and public-health protocols will be observed at all times; wearing of a mask is required.” 

After reopening, Cordileone considered the new guidelines to be discriminatory, due to the number of congregants per house of worship being limited to 100, regardless of the size of the place. 

“Our petition effort, though, has not ended,” said Cordileone. “The state of California’s limit of no more than 100 people inside of a house of worship regardless of the size of the building is still unjust.  We want and we intend to worship God safely: with masks, social distancing, sanitation, ventilation, and other such safety protocols. But we will not accept believers being treated more severely than other, comparable secular activities.”

Malls and indoor retailers may operate at 50 percent capacity as of September 30.

Worshippers arrive at the Cathedral of St. Mary the Assumption during COVID Pandemic. Photo courtesy of San Francisco Archdiocese YouTube Channel.

The petition is still open to sign and had 41,355 signatures as of 12 p.m. PST on October 3.

The “health alert” page featured a video titled “Reopening Churches” that describes the guidelines for those returning to service at the Cathedral of St. Mary the Assumption. The church guidelines include not just the common requirements of wearing face covering and distancing six feet apart from people outside family members who shelter together, they also include regulations of worship activities. No choir is allowed and music can performed only during liturgy by one instrumentalist and one cantor. The man doing the narration for the worship guideline video said all masses should be kept short. 

Catholic rituals have been adjusted and changed to minimize contact between congregants. “Offering baskets should be placed at strategic locations before mass begins.”

Communion during the pandemic at Cathedral of St. Mary the Assumption. Photo courtesy of SF Archdiocese YouTube Channel.

Restrooms will be monitored to limit the number of people present at the same time. Church windows and doors may be kept open to maximize air circulation to minimize the spread of COVID. Congregants and visitors were urged to bring their own hand sanitizer. 

Archbishop Cordileone exhorted his congregation to worship responsibly by complying with government health safety orders, limiting the number of attendants at mass, and cooperating with public officials. 

The “Reopening Churches” worship guidelines video opens with Cordileone’s words:

“As people of faith, we must always keep aware of the importance of acting in a socially responsible way, in order to give good example to others and to witness the special concern we are called to have to act with charity toward all. As we start to open up for public masses in the Archdiocese of San Francisco, then, we must begin by allowing only only a limited number of attendants at each Mass in order to ensure compliance with social distancing guidelines and other safety protocols, and so cooperating with the efforts of our public officials to stem the spread of the coronavirus.”

Cordileone told viewers to do their part so that they can gradually take further steps towards “ordinary parish life.”

While recognizing the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic and the importance of complying with health orders aimed at minimizing the spread of the disease, the San Francisco Archbishop considered the loosened restrictions to still be discriminatory and unjust, and called for further action to address them.  

“This movement is not over. Our work and victories have just begun. Thank you San Francisco people of faith and the thousands of others across the nation who are joining us at”